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You Ask, I Answer: Fish Oil Supplements & Mercury

fish-oil-tabletsIs there anything in particular I should look for when buying fish oil supplements?

Also, should I be worried about mercury levels?

– Dennise O’Grady
Bay Head, NJ

The main thing you want to look for is the presence of DHA and EPA (you want anywhere from 500 to 1,000 milligrams of each of those essential fatty acids).

Oil from krill (small, cold-water crustaceans that live in the ocean floor) is apparently starting to be considered the golden standard in some circles since it appears to be the most easily absorbable, and also contains antioxidants not found in oil from fish.

That said, oil from actual fish is just as good a source of those two fatty acids.

Since fish oils are extracted from fish that are very low on the food chain (e.g.: mackerel, herring, sardines, cod), mercury contamination is not a concern.

My rule of thumb is: food first, then supplements.  If you can get your omega-3 fatty acids from eating fish, that is best.

However, I realize there are some barriers.  Some people do not like the taste of fish, others are vegetarian, and, as is the case with salmon, there is always the doubt of whether the fish you are eating is wild or farmed (farmed fish tend to have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids).

For those interested in eating their DHA and EPA, I highly recommend sardines.  They are never farmed, so you can always expect a good dose of those two omega-3 fatty acids!



  1. Corey said on July 27th, 2009

    What about anchovies, shrimp, crab, and clams? Just a few of my personal favorites.

  2. dennise said on July 28th, 2009

    wow…glad you posted this. just came back from dean’s natural market where I did indeed buy the krill which for 30 caps was close to 25 bucks! i bought reg fish oil too…

    how can i even tolerate sardines? altho i think i remember marion nestle talking abt buying canned wild salmon as a fairly safe really inexpensive option to solving this issue…could this be right, andy?


  3. Andy Bellatti said on July 28th, 2009

    Yes, krill oil is pricier, which is why I wanted to make it clear that other fish oil is also a very good buy.

    Canned salmon is a great way to solve the issue. Check out this post from 2007:

  4. Cole Jones said on March 17th, 2010

    Interesting piece about which fish to eat and which to avoid in Eating Well:

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